8 polls show voters ready to pass Florida medical marijuana amendment

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The numbers in eight polls taken since January 2015 vary widely as to whether people of Florida support the legalization of medical marijuana. But the polls all agree that over 60 percent — the percentage needed to pass Amendment 2 in November’s general election — said they were ready to vote yes on the change in the state’s constitution.

The two surveys that showed the highest level of approval were done by the widely respected Quinnipiac University Poll, which posted results that said 80 percent of 1,051 respondents in a May survey supported the measure. Sixteen percent, the poll said, were opposed to the amendment.

The poll said 71 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of Democrats along with 84 percent of independent voters approved of the amendment change.

Surveyors also found support from 89 percent of millennials, or voters between ages 18 to 34 years old, who said they would vote for it. That age group was the most supportive of the amendment.

The previous Quinnipiac poll was taken in March 2015, when 84 percent of 1,087 polled voiced support for the constitutional amendment and 14 percent were opposed.

Both Quinnipiac polls contained a margin of error of plus/minus 3 percent.

The poll showing the lowest percentage of approval came in March when a News 13/BayNews9 poll of 1,961 Floridians showed an approval rating of 61 percent, with 21 percent against the amendment.

Seventy percent of millennials supported the measure, the poll revealed, along with 71 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of Republicans.

The poll had a plus/minus margin of error of 2.2 percent.

The polls mean nothing, said Christina Johnson, spokeswoman for Vote No on 2, the campaign seeking to defeat Amendment 2.

“The polls leading up to the 2014 election showed a huge lead as well, but once we got out our message that Amendment 2 was not about medicine but rather just legalized pot smoking in Florida, the numbers came down,” she said. “We expect the same to happen in 2016.”

Fifty-seven percent of Florida voters approved of the amendment in the 2014 general election, but the measure failed because it needed 60 percent of the yea vote to pass the amendment. People United for Medical Marijuana, the main committee behind the amendment change, circulated a petition and gathered enough names to again place the measure on the ballot.

The wording is changed, and this year’s version is more specific on what medical conditions are required for treatment with medicinal pot.

And this year, there is a law on the books, passed by the Florida Legislature, that allows limited use of medicinal pot. Six grow houses already are set up around the state tending crops, and the Florida Department of Health says dispensaries will be peddling medicinal pot sometime between July and August.

Dispensaries are being considered in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota, as well as other cities across the state including Orlando, Jacksonville, Miami, Gainesville, and Tallahassee, health officials say.

Additionally, the state health department has implemented guidelines for growers, processors, dispensers, doctors, and patients who are involved in the treatment from start to finish.

A lot has changed over the two years since the initiative failed in 2014, said Ben Pollara, executive director of the United for Care campaign which supports passage of the amendment.

Municipalities across the state have or are considering relaxing criminal laws for possession of small amounts of marijuana, he said, and that may signal a mood shift among Florida voters on the pot issue. He said this time around, the most visible opponent to the amendment in 2014, the Florida Sheriff’s Association, this year is not taking sides. The opposition, he said, doesn’t appear to be as organized as it was two years ago.

Still, he can’t take all that and the poll numbers for granted, he said.

“We need 60 percent,” he said. “You can only be so confident.

“Still, I feel good about it,” he said, “better than I did two years ago.”

Keith Morelli

With a 38-year career in journalism behind him, Keith Morelli now writes about medical marijuana and the politics of pot in Florida. He began his career as a news editor with a weekly paper in Zephyrhills and his last gig was with The Tampa Tribune, which folded unceremoniously in May. While there, Morelli was general assignment reporter for the Metro section, writing a wide variety of pieces ranging from obituaries, to crime, to red tide, panthers and city government. In between those jobs, he spent nine years as a bureau chief for the Ocala Star-Banner.


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